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Friday, May 7, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Dining Deals

Get past the dive vibe, and you'll find good, homemade food

Special to The Seattle Times

Five Point Cafe


415 Cedar St., Seattle; 206-448-9993

American

$

Hours: always open.

Full bar / credit cards: MC, V / smoking OK / no obstacles to access.

Rating: recommended.

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A meal at the Five Point Cafe is a lot like eating at your mom's kitchen table — provided your mom smokes eight packs a day and fancies vodka in her breakfast juice.

This rare blend of homespun and depraved can be found at the convergence of Fourth and Cedar in the Denny Regrade under the watchful gaze of Chief Seattle, where it's been open nearly nonstop for the past 75 years.

In you walk — past the "We cheat tourists and drunks since 1929" sign, and past several of those very drunks — into a room filled with blue smoke and loud music. (On the other side is the bar.) You note that the place is also filled with starving artists — unknown and unwashed — and though this cheers you into (correctly) surmising that the food must be affordable, it also makes you despair about how it will taste.

It is about this time that Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm arrives with menus. As the perkiest pierced person on Earth cheerfully describes the food, you begin to realize that something down-to-earth is happening in the kitchen.

Breakfast is served all day. The chili in the huevos rancheros is homemade. So are the chips. (So is almost everything.) Burgers are hand-formed and served with homemade fries. Sandwiches, hot and cold, are piled high with home-roasted turkey or homemade meatloaf. The coffee is the venerable Caffé Vita. The apple pie is made right there in the kitchen. Apple pie!

In other words, someone in this dive actually cares about the integrity of food. It's nothing fancy, and your palate may feel a wee bit overgreased after. But it's good, honest fare — satisfying and cheap — served all day and all night by good-hearted servers who shoot straight and won't underpour your drinks.

It's older than the Dog House, it's better than the Dog House, it's outlived the Dog House — and it now channels the inimitable spirit of the Dog House, smoke and all. No wonder Chief Seattle's been standing there all these years.

Check please:

Chicken quesadillas: Fat-dripping wedges of overstuffed flour tortilla leak their tomatoes, onions, peppers, grilled chicken chunks, cheese and good-quality olives all over the heaps of guacamole, sour cream and salsa on your plate, leaving you digging into a wonderful tasty mess. By all means order this starter as an entree.

Huevos rancheros: The happiest surprise of the evening was another messy plate, this one loaded with homemade chili, crunchy homemade tortilla strips, a couple of eggs (mine were scrambled and dry), salsa, sour cream and jalapeños for kick. This would make quick work of a 3 a.m. after-the-party hunger pang.

Cod and shrimp special: Even ordinary tempura shrimp are delicious, as evidenced by this special. A juicy slab of breaded cod was lovely beside it, as were the addictive homemade fries. But best was the supporting act — a full plate loaded with all the accompaniments one needs to make the most of this dish: enormous puddles of cocktail and tartar sauces — homemade, natch — and a respectable heap of good cole slaw.

Apple pie: Homemade! Served warm with vanilla ice cream! So the crust was a little too greasy — it was still just about perfect with a cup of Caffé Vita and a shot of whiskey.

Itemized bill, meal for two

Chicken quesadillas $5.75

Huevos rancheros $7.50

Cod and shrimp special $9.67

Apple pie $3.50

Tax $2.32

Total $28.74

Kathryn Robinson: kathrynrobinson@speakeasy.net

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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